VirionHealth secures Abingworth backing to trial novel antiviral studies

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Gettyimages/bodym
Gettyimages/bodym

Related tags Virus Immune system

VirionHealth Ltd is poised to start Phase I trials of new biological antivirals - called defective interfering particles - after receiving £13m ($15m) from private equity group Abingworth.

The UK biotech completed the series A fundraising round last week, telling us the money will pay for early clinical development of preclinical-stage candidate therapies for the treatment of influenza A and respiratory syncytial (RSV) infections.

Defective interfering particles (DIP) are viruses that, as their name suggests, interfere with viral replication.

In a viral infection the virus enters a cell, takes control of its replication machinery and produces copies of itself that are released when the cell dies.

DIPs replicate in the same way, with several key differences.

Firstly, they hijack cellular replication machinery more effectively than viruses, meaning they can “outcompete” a virus in the same cell.

Another difference between DIPs and viruses is that the former are non-infective, meaning the infection cycle ceases when the cell dies.

However, while the DIPs cannot infect other cells, they do elicit an innate immune response that helps prevent new infections.

Treat and prevent

As a result, DIP-based antivirals have the potential to treat and protect against a range of infections according to a VirionHealth spokesman.

He told us “The outcompetion mechanism allows breadth against all flu A strains even ones that will emerge in the future.”

In the case of other respiratory viruses likes RSV our approach primes/stimulates an innate immune response by inducing a local interferon type 1 response enabling the body of fight off an infection more efficiently” ​he added.

VirionHealth will use the funds provided by Abingworth “to take us to the end of a first in man clinical study” ​the spokesman continued, adding the firm will consider seeking a commercial partner at a later stage.

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